JERUSALEM (JTA) — Turkey has given Israeli defense contractors 50 days to deliver 10 promised drone aircraft.
Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul sent a letter to Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit demanding that they deliver the unmanned aerial vehicles by the beginning of the new calendar year. The letter threatened to cancel the deal, which was signed in 2005, if the drones are not delivered in time.
"If this letter does not bear fruit either, the tender may be canceled, but there is no cancellation at the moment," Gonul said Saturday on CNN Turk news, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Turkey signed on four years ago to purchase the surveillance drones known as Herons from Israeli Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems at a cost of more than $180 million. The companies missed the original delivery deadline, and then missed a new deadline to deliver four Herons in August, followed shortly by another two and finally the last four by the end of October.
Turkey recently returned two drones because they did not perform up to expectations.
Israeli officials say the project was slowed down after surveillance equipment supplied by Turkey for the drones was too heavy for the machine.
Israel-Turkey relations have grown tense since the Gaza war, with Turkey taking the lead in some international forums in demanding that Israel be held accountable for alleged war crimes. Last month Turkey prevented Israel from joining a NATO-alliance military exercise that ultimately was canceled due to Israel’s exclusion.